Dalton Rapattoni made his hometown even prouder Thursday night after he advanced to the top three on American Idol.
His emotional visit home to Sunnyvale on March 26 was edited down for television and shown before his first performance of the night. It even contained scenes of him getting his hair done at his grandmother's salon. Obviously feeling just as comfortable on stage as at home, he then performed Blue October's "Calling You" with a jubilant swagger.
He explained that the group, the song and his hometown had helped shape the performer he was becoming.
Said judge Harry Connick Jr.: "You really know who you are."
The top four performed after footage from their visits home were shown. MacKenzie Bourg, from Lafayette, La., had gone first, singing "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen.
Dalton was next and then Trent Harmon of Amory, Miss., sang a smoky "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton. In a move right up Idol's moment-making alley, they surprised him on stage with a visit from his family that took him to his knees.
La'Porsha Renae sang a fully formed "Glory" (no, she didn't rap). Judge Keith Urban said, "I feel like I just had a baptism," and Connick put her in the "critique-proof category."
And then there were three, as host Ryan Seacrest called out the singers who were safe, in order based on the nationwide vote. Trent was first. And a seemingly stunned Rapattoni was next.
When only La'Porsha and MacKenzie were left, MacKenzie kept saying "I'll do it for you" to Seacrest. La'Porsha would pull his hand down and say, "Stop." MacKenzie knew what he was talking about. He went home an hour into the show.
Each remaining Idol contestant had two more performances before the night was over, though: the next would be a song chosen by Big Machine Records founder and Taylor Swift finder Scott Borchetta.
Rapattoni performed a jubilant "Dancing in the Dark," taking another song through complete Daltonization. Connick pointed out that, though he may lack the vocal chops of other contestants, "the reason you're still here is that you bring people along" on the journey.
In what felt like a bit of a setup, the judges chose the third song. Rapattoni was saddled with "Everybody Wants to Save the World" by Tears for Fears. Everybody wants to sing that song, too, but, well ... He performed it admirably, but the connection wasn't quite there. Perhaps the judges don't know him as well as they thought.
Rapattoni had said that Saturday in Sunnyvale was the "best day of my life." He might have a couple or three more to add after Thursday's show. America will help him decide: Voting ends at 9 a.m. Pacific on Friday.
(S/N: My head hurt with how good La'Porsha's reading of Lorraine Ellison's "Stay With Me Baby" was. Even her little girl clapped. She disagreed with the song's message, though, saying "the only person I would beg to stay with me is God." Preach.)
American Idol will finish up its run over three nights next week, with a retrospective show Tuesday and the two-part finale Wednesday and Thursday. All will air at 7 p.m. on Fox.